Thursday, 2 April 2009

Billy Bob Thornton Films

Bill Bob Thornton, Who? I asked myself when I read that he was the subject of the latest in the Actors Studio production on MainStreet and I decide to watch and at first believe I have discovered a new hero. Why I ask myself over a cup of tea having decided to stay up beyond the permitted hour in order to maintain the regime necessary for the time given to being at the hospital. I liked his openness and honesty and his understanding of the nature of happiness and sadness being part of the same experience as love and hate and all other emotions usually considered to be, and for advocating that everyone should write and its cathartic value and bringing of new insight and for being dyslexic and finding reading difficult.

Billy Bob has titled his published biographical notes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Southerner which is a good way of communicating his creativity against the background of a poor rural based family of a white father and part native American Italian mother who is a psychic, living in the segregated Arkansas in the 50's and 60's, but although his background and way of life, where his grandfather a forest ranger shot the family food for his early years, he is able to looks back with warmth at his childhood and the close relationship with developed with his younger brother of a year and half. Despite an attention reading and understanding difficulty he started to write stories at an early age and was sufficiently self confident to take part in school theatricals. His reading including William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell whose work did not influence me until much later. His music influence were of the era of Presley, Jim Reeves, the Beatles and other British bands. His self confidence was such that he directed a grade school production of Dracula. He was also an active sportsman achieving local success in baseball. The background to this point appears part of the American Dream, Poor Kid, unpromising background, begins to make by success at school. He even got a try out for the Kansas City Royals but a freak accident broke his collarbone and ended this route.

During the 1970's two events commenced a process which changed the direction and nature of his future life. His father died of cancer in 1973 at the age of 44 shortly after his graduation at the of 18 years and then four years later after a variety of local manual work jobs and then with an aspiring novelist they decided to try their fortune first in New York and then on the West Coast, He returned home married a local girl with whom he had a daughter, and but this did not last.

It is then the published biography reveals something which the Lipton interview did not, or if it did I missed it because he commenced a study of psychology at Henderson State University, although it does not state why he left except that in part because of a home town connection with then Governor Bill Clinton he got a manual job in the state highways department. And then he also got a job in a residential facility for the elderly with psychiatric and behavioural problems which is a third link, the caring of his father as the eldest son, the study of psychology and the working with sufferers of mind and feeling which revealed the sensitive and insightful soul that was emerging. The hard working life was balanced with performing in a rock band doing covers and trying to find acting work.

In 1984 as he approached his 30th birthday Bill Bob decided to move back to California with his friend Tom Epperson where he struggled and starved, marrying for a short time to a future ceramicist and sculpture, but also getting small part jobs in TV shows, with perhaps Knots landing being one which reached UK screens that vaguely remember. The Bill Clinton connection continued with the Governor keeping in contact with his mother to find out her eldest lad was doing and she said to him that she was confident of her boys eventual success predicting he would an Oscar which she would attend with him.

In the Actor's studio Bill Bob emphasised the significance of the death of his younger brother from a heart attack at the age of 20 while working as a chef at a Hard Rock café but also a talented musician. Bill Bob as many actors and artists do also had spells as a manager of a Pizza Parlour and as a waiter at Hollywood social functions. While the image of a southern hard living boy could to be projected with tattoos and drugs and no doubt alcohol as well as two failed marriages, it is the impact of his brother's death along with that of his father that help to understand th insight and depth of understanding of human behaviour which has subsequently brought to his screen performances as a character actor rather than a screen personality which is why I did not know his name, but knew some of his work well.

The work which I liked without taking in the main character was played by Billy Bob is the 200 Cohen Brothers The Man who was not there and who wife has an affair with Soprano James Gandolfini. The Cohen brothers are niot everyone's cup of tea and when I think of them I think to the ultimate joke of someone saying it is raining cats and dogs and you have guessed it the sky is full of falling cats and dogs, The Man who was not there is a more serious "Hitchockian" film, or is it.

I also enjoyed Pushing Tin which does more to reduce the inclination to travel in airplanes than most environmental campaigning. This was the filly where Billy Bob met the stated "love of his life", Angelina Jolie. The film which brought Bill Bob International recognition, alas except by me was Slingblade which Billy Bob wrote and directed and played the central character who has been locked away in an institution from the criminally insane since the age of nine because he has murdered his mother and her lover, and is released because he is believed to have been cured and sets out on a pathway to redemption or is he. This much I gleaned from the show and a review of the film but it is not a film I immediately want to add to the must see list, I have seen at least six of the other forty films where he has had a involvement, possibly half a dozen and where I have no image of a performance by him without reading reviews and seeing some of the listed films, so why does he immediate rank as a hero and then become eliminated after I read what he had written or agreed to be written about his life. I recognise the darkness within which has made him the great character actor that he has become.

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